• Empowered patients vs ‘Dr Google’

    Too often cancer patients are given reports that make sense only to healthcare professionals, which can lead to confusion and a reliance on 'Dr Google' for advice.

    A new study at Melbourne's Epworth Freemasons hospital aims to change that, with prostate cancer patients being given simple language reports on their scans. 

    It is hoped the research project will give patients a better understanding of their condition, and a greater say in treatment.

    The EMPOWER study is being undertaken by the EJ Whitten Prostate Cancer Research Centre at Epworth, which is co-funding it with the Epworth Medical Foundation.

    Half the men who take part in the study, and undergo a type of x-ray known as a PSMA PET/CT scan, will be given a standard report from the radiographer, as well as a patient-focused report, written in plain language.

    The other half will be given a standard radiographer’s report and a follow-up with their doctor to discuss the results.

    Professor Nathan Lawrentschuk

    The centre's director, Professor Nathan Lawrentschuk, said the study aimed to evaluate the benefit of giving patients plain-language reports on their PET/CT scan.

    “Reports from the radiographer are usually written for the referring specialist, GPs, researchers, and nurses, instead of the patient,” he said.

    “It often leads to patients having to consult ‘Dr Google’ to understand what the complex reports mean.

    “The EMPOWER study explores whether a patient-focused report in simple language can improve a patient’s experience and understanding of their diagnosis, as well as empower them to play a greater role in the decision making of their treatment, in consultation with their specialist.”

    Prof Lawrentschuk said if the research showed benefits in providing patients with detailed, plain-language PET/CT scan reports it could be expanded to other areas, including other radiology and pathology reports.

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